Five-point plan to democratise political life in Malaysia

The Organising Secretary of the Democratic Action Party, Mr. Lim Kit Siang, today (15.11.1968) proposed a five-point plan to democratise political life in Malaysia.

Mr. Lim, who was speaking at a political discussion at the Tampoi DAP Branch, said under the Alliance rule, the basis of Malaysian democracy was systematically eroded year by year.

The five-point democratisation plan is:

• DEMOCRATISE the mass media of communications;
• DEMOCRATISE the government’s control of political party activities;
• DEMOCRATISE the conduct of elections;
• DEMOCRATISE local government; and
• DEMOCRATISE the university campus.

Mr. Lim said that a democracy could succeed only if the majority of people could exercise good judgements and wise decisions. This in turn depended on freedom of information and expression.

Mr. Lim added: “It is for this reason that freedom of information and expression is one of the fundamental rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights state: ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.’

“If information media and sources are controlled by one political party, the ruling party, via the radio, television and the press, the people will not be able to make good judgements and wise decisions because they will not be able to have access to free and full information.

“In Malaysia, radio and television are unashamed instruments of propaganda of the party in power. Opposition parties are never given a chance to state their views and policies over these public mass media before elections. This is undemocratic.

“The present regulations governing political party activities are also undemocratic. Regulations requiring parties to get prior police permit for public rallies and meetings not only give rise to red tape and bureaucratic delays, they also infringe the basic rights of free speech and assembly. There are many regulations which are meant to hamper and restrict party political work, like the necessity to register branches, etc.

“In all these cases, all that should be required are not prior government permission, but the requirement for political parties to give prior notice to the government departments concerned about their proposed activities.

“The conduct of elections is highly undemocratic, where you have on the one hand the ruling party spending over $10 million for a general elections, while the opposition party hardly able to scratch together a quarter of a million dollars. The ruling party also unashamedly uses public personnel, resources and money for its party campaigning. To curb this, an elections code of conduct should be drafted by an all-party commission, to prevent abuse, and binding on all competing parties.

“The suspension of local council elections is a flagrant violation of grass-roots democracy. Local Council elections must be immediately restored to the elected control of the people, by holding immediate local council elections.

“When the government suspended local council elections in March 1965, in the midst of Indonesian Confrontation, the Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, gave a categorical assurance to the Parliament and the nation that once peace conditions have been restored, local council elections would be held.

“To justify their continued suspension of local council elections even after the end of the Indonesian Confrontation, the Alliance government established a commission of inquiry to look into the workings of local councils, headed by Dato Athi Nahappan, Vice President of Malayan Indian Congress.

“The public had been promised, variously through the Tunku, Mr. Khaw Khai Boh, the Minister for Local Government, and Dato Athi Nahappan himself, that the Report would be out, at first, in December 1966, then early 1967, then mid-1967, then end of 1967, then early 1968, and so on.

“But to date, the Report is still a high mystery!

“The Alliance government should seriously consider setting up a commission of inquiry to inquire into what happened to the Athi Nahappan Report!

“There is no doubt that the delay is motivated purely by political considerations, because the Alliance is frightened of losing out in the town council and local council elections to the Opposition.

“It therefore resorted to the undemocratic practice of suspending local council elections.

“In the University campus, the Alliance is trying to mould the student minds to Alliance cast, or freeze their political maturity.

“The Alliance knew that the majority of university students are highly critical of the Alliance for its gross incompetence, corruption and racialism. But to the Alliance, only pro-Alliance students are permitted.

“This was why, recently, the Assistant Minister of Education, Me. Lee Siok Yew criticised University of Malaya students for thinking themselves ‘too clever’ in holding political symposiums, seminars and so on.

“This is because at the university seminars, forums and symposia, government representatives dared not participate for fear of criticism of government policies.

“Hence, the intention on the part of the government to curb the free exchange of political ideas in the university campus.

“This is undemocratic and short-sighted, because such a policy will only produce a generation of graduates who are devoid of a social conscience and purpose.”

Mr. Lim said the Alliance government should thoroughly review its undemocratic practices, with a view to abandoning them in the interest of the people and nation.

Issued by DAP Information Office.

Audited on 2021-03-11